Minnesota Twins General Manager Doug Graff met with the local media to discuss the team’s offseason and his plans moving forward.
“We are always looking to compete every season. The reality is we have financial constraints that dictate what we can and cannot do. Coming off a disappointing season (77-85, 2nd place in AL Central), I believe we have made a number of ‘under the radar moves’ that will prove positive this coming season and beyond.”
The fact is Minnesota did make a number of additions and changes to the roster this off-season. But the impact on the Won-Loss record remains to be seen. Graff continued the interview, detailing the roster changes and the thought process behind the moves.
” We felt there were 4 key players on our roster moving forward: SS Nick Gordon, 3B Amaurys Minier, SP Huascar Ynoa and Cl Jung-ho Chang. The first order of business was extending Gordon’s contract.” Gordon agreed to a 5 year/$98,610,000 contract, keeping the Silver Slugger and 1x All Star on the team through his age 30 season.
Power hitting 3B Minier (43 hr’s/117 RBI’s in 2020) needed to move off 3b, where he has struggled defensively. “With CJ Cron’s contract expiring at the end of 2020, Minny felt that DH would become Minier’s primary position in 2021. During the off-season, we added 2 young 1B (Leurys Vargas and Jeimer Candelario). Vargas will get the 1st shot as the everyday 1b. He profiles as a solid fielder with above average power. Candelario also is solid defensively, with an above-average hit tool.”
SP Ynoa was the gem of the Twins minor league system. He was brought up during the 2020 season and showed flashes of top of the rotation talent. Graff expects him to take a giant leap forward in 2021, firmly establishing himself as the ace. Only 22 years old, many believe Ynoa will top the Twins rotation for years to come.
Closer Chang, a 2020 All Star in his first season, was signed as an International Free Agent. He did not disappoint, striking out 143 batters in 82.2 innings, with a 1.02 WHIP and 38 saves. Chang, who is 27 years old, is signed through 2025.
“We believe we have surrounded our core 4 with more than enough talent to play meaningful games in September. Jose Altuve was acquired from Houston and will be part of a L/R platoon with Kean Wong at 2b. 3B will be a battle between young prospects: Dawel Lugo and Tony Dudley. Both are solid defensively and we believe they will hold their own in the Major Leagues. Our OF will have solid veteran Eddie Rosario in LF, All World defensive wizard Max Kepler in RF. CF Byron Buxton, who missed most of 2020 due to a heel injury, will be healthy for the coming season. However, there are rumors that Buxton may be moved as soon as he is healthy, leaving CF to be handled by any of the following: Manuel Margot, Mikey Edie and/or Gus Manley. It is entirely possible that if Buxton is moved, Kepler can take his Gold Glove with him to CF, opening up RF to be manned by one of 2 talented corner OF’s currently on the 40 man roster: Rule 5 pick Artie Cochrane or Dany Rojas. Also in the mix could be AAA RF Desi Godfrey.”
Last season, the starting rotation was a mix of injuries and ineffectiveness for the Twins, ultimately costing them any real opportunity to battle for a Wild Card slot. The Twins, seeking to strengthen the rotation, added Brandon Finnegan from the Washington Nationals. He will slot in 3rd in the rotation, behind Aaron Sanchez and Ynoa. Kohl Stewart and Daniel Gossett will follow Finnegan.
“We expect Ynoa to progress dramatically this season. Hopefully, Sanchez and Stewart will remain healthy, as they have proven to be solid starting pitchers. Gossett should revert back to his norm, after a shaky 2020. I have a lot of faith in our bullpen, with some incredible arms possessing swing and miss stuff. Closer Chang is a given. Hopefully, set up man Jorge Fajardo can stay healthy. When he is, few posses more overwhelming stuff.”
Graff quickly moved into the Twins minor league system, which has been considered by most to be very weak.
“I do not understand why our minor league system gets such low ratings. I believe we have plenty of talent that will be successful on a major league roster in the near future.” He then ticked off young players that he believes would be highly rated in virtually any minor league system: Desi Godfrey, Dany Rojas, Mike Minor, Jorge Acosta, Gus Manley, Chris Cannon, Stu Bliss, Theron Chapman, Luis Romano and many others.
As our time came to a close, the Twins GM pointed out an important element that he believes will help him keep the team relevant moving forward: “We will always need to be aware of our finances. Fans need to bear in mind that after the 2021 season, we will have only about $75,000,000 in salary. This will provide great flexibility in extending many of our best players or participating more aggressively in free agency and/or the trade market. The future is bright in Minnesota.”